… But the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
Not quite the rhyme you remember hearing in school. The truth is, words are not simply random combinations of syllables and sounds. Words have power. The Bible says that “the words of the reckless pierce like swords” (Proverbs 12:18). The analogy is unmistakable; words can cut deep.
I’m sure we are all able to relate to this truth. An angry word from a trusted friend, a hurtful comment from the one we love. The expression ‘stabbed in the back’ didn’t come out of nowhere; words hurt. Sometimes, words can be so painful that we’d rather be injured physically than damaged emotionally. Often, our bodies heal more quickly than our hearts do.
Unfortunately, we’re all guilty of this offense. Each of us has spoken in the heat of the moment, against our better judgment; our words leaving a trail of destruction in their path. It can take years to repair what a few seconds of cruel words can tear down. Negative, critical words can have disastrous, long-term effects. The child who grows up hearing they are worthless, stupid, ugly and good for nothing will likely have considerably lower self-esteem than the child who has been told they are precious, wonderful, beautiful and significant. What would you rather hear? Whether we are aware of it or not, we are deeply affected emotionally by the words we encounter in our daily lives.
We have all come into contact with people who exude negativity. They are always complaining about something, speaking ill about someone or making constant negative remarks. These kinds of people are exhausting to be around; they seem to suck the life right out of you. On the other hand, it is remarkably refreshing to be in the company of somebody who is full of gratitude, and edifying words. The Bible tells us that “the words of a good person give life, like a fountain of water and the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 10:11, 12:18). An encouraging word has the power to restore hope; an expression of love can heal deep wounds.
We have been given a great gift in the power our words possess, but as with many gifts comes a great responsibility. “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” – Proverbs 13:3. The next time you are tempted to lash out in anger, take a moment to consider the significance of what you are about to say. The power of life and death may be on the tip of your tongue.